In praise of braids

The braids have almost but disappeared. (Except in rope designs, ofcourse). In the neighbourhoods that I live in. Or maybe, I am not looking thoroughly. But their omni presence in smaller neighbourhoods bring about the curiosity about what makes them disappear from the big cities !

‘It takes a while’ said a young mom back in the city. And went on to explain that hair has to be oiled well, combed free of small intertwining, and then, carefully ‘woven’ together and finished with a flourish with a striking red ribbon! (statutory disclaimer: This is both a recounted and translated version. So, mistakes could exist in the order and content. Please do not attempt it in this order, without expert help).

With fast lifestyles, TV and late nights, there’s just about time to make it to the school bus before the helpful school bus driver’s second honk! And of course, with twin careers (both in knots) and thoughts braided within the brain, who wants one (or two) more outside? And not in the least, the kids!

But, this is still in vogue. Atleast in South India. Atleast in villages. And most definitely, in certain sections of society. Where the hair is worked on with care. And the braids come on with a certain shiny oily elegance. Finished with love and a flourish of white Jasmine to go with the gloss of oiled hair topped with a blazing red of the ribbon.

I am told by people with insider information, that this process helps in strengthening hair! I have the faintest of ideas. The balding plate is further excuse. The closest that I have come to such knotty affairs in recent times is knowing Lolla Kutty has a group on Facebook. (Of which I am yet to become a member. Ok ?) Just saying.

The travelers roving eye spots many things. Many stay knotted in the mind or on the camera. Some find a way to the blog. This was one such.

19 thoughts on “In praise of braids

  1. Nachi says:

    love the picture!

    …and yes, there is nothing better than a nice oil head massage, is there? 🙂

  2. Pradeep says:

    Ribbon is very much used in South India. Ribbon reminds me of a funny incident that happened couple of days ago. In the morning, I was starting for work and was taking the bike out of home in a hurry. The grand daughter (3 yrs old) of my house owner was watching quietly and suddenly asked me a question,
    “Uncle thalayila ribbon kattalaya?”
    I was shocked for a moment and realized that she meant handkerchief. (For a moment, I visualized myself with red ribbon on head) 🙂

  3. Swatantra says:

    Beautiful written by traveler!!

    The braids are common in the small cities!! and yes they strengthen the hair, as my hair fall is on heigher side the day i have stopped making braids 🙂

  4. Chalo gaon ki aur –
    Knockinig the door.

  5. Chalo gaon ki aur –
    Knockinig the door.

  6. manju says:

    You observe everything, don’t you, Kavi! 🙂

  7. Great post that took me back to my student days. And hair reflects the standards of the then prevailing society. We had to wear braids exactly like the girl in your photo. Whats worse, our school insisted on black ribbons. A slight scratching of the head and mothers would get into the investigative mode with fine combs. Society then had simple and straight rules by which folks lived. Flicks, and “zulfay” of hair cascading over your right eye were totally frowned upon, and everyone doubted the character of such folks. This busines of constantly throwing your head back to swing your hair wasnt there.(Your swinging braid could hurt someone). The only plus point that i can see for open short hair, is that brothers cant pull it, like they did , when they pulled braids in my childhood to trouble us….:-)

  8. Aparna says:

    I have 2 daughters and have to tie braids every morning for school. The older one calls this hair style archaic, the younger one doesn’t seem to mind. And this is no small town, we live in Mumbai.

  9. Lou says:

    You have traditions & customs; in America the style changes every day. I lived in Europe for many years, where tradition also counts for something.

    I see the braiding ritual as time mothers spent with their daughters, time together and talking. But braiding takes times, and life has become hectic.

    Thanks for reading my blog. I think my problems are not in your world, but still you take time to leave a thoughtful response.

  10. This makes me think of my last summer at the beach. I grew up with my long straight hair in braids. I did them myself since my mother was not one to style her young daughter’s hair. And I did them daily. I love the feeling of letting my braids out at night.

    Back to last summer, one evening after the shower at the beach I braided Punkette’s hair while the other played marbles. I gave her five braids on her tiny head of thin hair. Because we have nothing but time to spare during evenings at the beach. And a small group of women and children gathered to admire the braids. They wanted to learn. They wanted to be braided. Every night for the duration of the summer I braided at least one other head in addition to my Punkette. And friendships were formed, treats exchanged, watermelon offered up.

    I’m looking forward to the braiding again…

  11. ♥ Braja says:

    Good one, Kavi 🙂

  12. SGD says:

    True….braiding like this has ALMOST become extinct!
    We chop off the kids’ hair to save time in the mornings!! :(((

  13. Ana Cristina says:

    My mom never learned to braid hair and so I used to beg my friends and cousins to do something we call a “French braid.” I don’t know if it’s really French or what, but all I know is I’ve always thought braids look elegant. I want to learn how to do one before I have children of my own (of which at least one is hopefully — please, God, please! — a girl).

  14. Pearl says:

    THIS is why I read, Kavi. “The travelor’s eye” indeed! You saw it, described it, and now I see it too.

    Thank you. 🙂


  15. Great observation! My own theory is that as much as moms nowadays think its a waste of time, daughters too don’t want to have braided hair as it just isn’t fashionable nowadays! And, oil! No one wants the smell of coconut oil coming from one when everyone else is wearing Dior!!
    Its a new world, Kavi! *sigh*

  16. Hi Kavi,
    Great post. Enjoyed. Perhaps the only way braiding will become fashionable is when Katrina sports it.

  17. SSQuo says:

    Thats an interesting topic from you kavi:)

    I never braided my hair as a kid. What hair?? I had short cropped hair, and was quite the tomboy. I loved long hair so I actually created a way to pretend I had it. It’s quite silly, but till today my sisters keep teasing me about it.

    Later once I had longer hair, I braided my hair once in a while just for fun at home.

    Whenever I saw kids with oiled hair pulled back I would get a headache and wonder how they could scratch their head (not lice) but like if they had to, what would happen to this carefully coiffed look???

  18. Rush says:

    u had a conversation with mom about braiding? good going for a future dad!!

  19. Ah, tightly tied two braids! Reminds me of my own childhood!

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